How Race Slowed The Investigation of a Double Homicide

I love crime shows, especially crime docs like Forensic Files and Cold Case Files. Lately I’ve been watching a show on Netflix called Crime 360. In this reality show, cameras follow the investigation of homicides that are solved in part by using technology that allows crime techs to “freeze” a crime scene just as it is at the time of discovery for use later if detectives need to see the scene for some purpose after clean-up at the actual site has occurred.

Over the course of 2 seasons, the show was filmed in Richmond, VA; Indianapolis, IN; Rochester, NY and Cleveland, OH. I’ve been watching for several days now, about an episode a day, and I quickly realized that approximately 90-95% of the victims were of color (mostly black) and with the exception of one of the episode I’m about to discuss, 100% of the perps were of color (mostly black). All of the victims have been male and young and “in that life” as well as the perps. To a certain degree I believe I’ve continued to watch this show just to see how many black men are killing other black men and how much of that a television show would air.

You have to wonder how many homicide investigations they filmed and how they chose to air the ones they chose to air. Two episodes I watched back-to-back were almost completely opposite in every way, except for the city they were filmed in; both were in Indianapolis.

In the first episode we come up on a homicide of a young black male. It appears that a shootout between two groups of people occurred and the victim was shot during that time. He managed to run to a back alley where he collapsed and died. The investigation went just as several others had gone: the lead investigator rounded up any possible witnesses and questioned them, came up with a list of suspects, and continued to use physical and forensic evidence to help him guide where he looked for more information until finally he was able to determine who shot the victim.

In the second episode, we come upon a double homicide of 2 older white males. Both are retired professionals and we learn (needlessly, I think) that they are gay (homophobia actually runs a bit rampant in this show, but that’s a topic for another post). Just like the prior episode and most of the others, the lead detective gathers witnesses and uses evidence to figure out where to go next in his search.

Both episodes end with the arrests of the suspect(s) but one takes a bit longer than the other to solve and I believe it has to do with race.

Read the rest here


My Reasons For Living Alone

When I was 14 years old, a friend of mine and I made unofficial pacts with ourselves that we wouldn't ever move in with a significant other unless we were at least engaged. I projected out a lot of things about my future at 14 that either haven't come true or I know won't. For obvious reasons I'm a lot different at (almost) 25 than I was at 14, but this has been one of the things that has continued to hold true.

I think at 14 the impetus for my friend and I had heavy roots in our Christian beliefs. We had been told that it was un-Christian for two people in a relationship who weren't married to live together. I don't dispute this. I actually recently did some relatively thorough research in the Bible and while there is no verse that says anything about two people in a relationship not living together, there are enough verses that the case can be made that you just shouldn't.

My reasoning, however, has changed a little bit. It's not rooted in my religious beliefs but rather in my practical ones.

On an episode of "Love & Hip Hop" Chrissy and Emily talk about Em's relationship with the rapper Fabolous. During Chrissy's diary portion that interjects, she shares that she got emotional talking to Emily about her situation because it reminded her (Chrissy) so much of her own with rapper Jim Jones. It was well-documented last season that Chrissy was tired of just being Jim's girlfriend and wanted to be his wife.

I think it's actually fairly obvious that for Jim, Chrissy is it. She's the one he wants to grow old with. It also seems, however, that for him, marriage isn't a necessary step towards that happening and I can't say that I don't see why myself. Why would you bother spending the money or the time to get married when in many states it doesn't take very long to be considered common law husband and wife AND if your relationship is trucking along just fine?

I'm certainly not anti-marriage and in fact my non-anti-marriage status is exactly the practical belief I'm referencing as the basis for my personal decision. Studies show that most couples who live together either don't get married or if they do, end in divorce more frequently than those who waited until after they were engaged or already married to live together.

I surely do not judge those who choose to live with their significant others either as a "trial run" or just because they want to. The friend alongside whom I made this pact actually now lives with her boyfriend and while I don't doubt they've discussed marriage, I haven't heard her talk much about a possible engagement and I have to ask myself if I don't see how that makes sense. In my mind I just can't come up with enough reasons to rock a boat that appears to be working just fine. For those who don't know or can't fathom the seriousness that marriage places upon a relationship it may seem like an unnecessary step; for those of us who can, it may seem like a dauntingly unnecessary step once we've gotten comfortable with just sharing the same space with our partner.

Because I'm marriage-minded and hope that it is in my future I do want to give my relationship every opportunity to be successful and if one way I can do that is by avoiding co-habitation, then by all means, let's git 'r done. Not to mention I'm of the opinion that moving in sends the wrong signals. What is there to work towards if everything about a marriage you get without the seriously deep (not to mention, legal) commitment of a ring and a ceremony? We place more weight - at least in this hetero-normed society and in heterosexual relationships - on a wife than we do a girlfriend. I think about my recently deceased uncle: his ex-wife had more weight in his life than his current girlfriend and I've seen the same thing played out in other situations. There is something very loving and respectful about wanting someone to take a step further and be your wife, no longer your girlfriend.

The other thing I think I fear is being "tricked" into changing my mind about marriage. I hear people in long-term committed, but not married or engaged - relationships say they're happy but I often wonder if it's true. Sometimes when we know what's going on and we can tell that things won't change, we adapt ourselves to the situation so we don't have to deal with the mental anguish it causes. In other words, I'm living with my boyfriend and after 3 years it becomes clear to my marriage-minded sensibilities that Billy Bob has not nan intention of proposing and I recognize that I can end this 3+ yr relationship over that or I can get with the program and see things his way. I'm almost wanting to throw up typing that but this really happens to people all the time and I really don't want it to happen to me. I don't want to forget that marriage is something I want just because it's easier to do that than to fight for it (which may not entail actual fighting as much as making different decisions).

So I'm holding on to my plan to avoid co-habitation until there's a sign of impending long-term commitment either via a ring or a marriage certificate. That's my personal decision and I think it will serve me well; I know folks who have made different decisions and for them it also has seemed to turn out well. I'm happy for them but I'll stick to this path until it seems to be headed the wrong way.



Yeah, it's post-Thanksgiving, but you're supposed to be thankful year-round, no?

I'm thankful for my family. I'm SUPER thankful for them. There are so many things I wish were true about us -- like that our whole family was closer, or that we were better communicators -- but I'm SO thankful that they are mine.

I don't believe I talk a lot about my extended family. I don't see them as extended, as if to say they don't matter as much as my immediate family. I see them simply as my family. Supportive, caring, concerned, etc...

That's it. That's all I got. Thankful for my family. I'm thankful for lots, my family is at the top.


How You Feel

I really wish our society were better at teaching itself how to properly express emotion.

Expression of emotion is far more than just "showing the exact degree to which I feel (enter emotion)". There's an element of self-awareness that goes along with it that I think is actually why we, as a society, don't express emotion well.

Last night, after getting my fill of positivity by watching Black Girls Rock on BET, I switched over to watch the re-air of Real Housewives of Atlanta. towards the end of the episode, Nene and Sheree had a classic Nene and Sheree altercation in which they both started off in a very "I'm better than this" manner and quickly descended into "I will return to my 6 year old self and say every bad thing I know about you in an attempt to hurt your feelings." I've talked about how people -- black women -- tend to argue with each other, especially when they're of a certain (perceived) status. This scene was both classic Nene and Sheree as well as classic inability to say what you're really feeling.

Later in the episode, we see Nene literally crying on the shoulder of a friend about how upset she is that Sheree believed another person before coming to her. It was kinda sad, but definitely bewildering, to see Nene crying like that after she had just had quite the shouting match with her (sometimes) friend.

What came out of Nene as anger and/or irritation, it turns out, was actually hurt and sadness and either she didn't know how or didn't feel safe enough to express the hurt and went for the anger.

While reviewing a lesson plan intended for 5th graders where you talk with them ab out emotions, I asked my professor and classmates about one part where the lesson plan suggests that if, when appropriately prompted, a student said they would be angry at the given situation, to go with that instead of re-directing them to the "surprised" emotion the lesson actually was trying to pull out of them. (the set up was that you're playing soccer and suddenly trip and fall over a hole in the ground, twisting your ankle). "Doesn't that do them a disservice?" I asked. "Don't you want to help them understand that the anger they think they feel is really surprise and maybe irritation?"

We just aren't good at saying how we really feel both because we sometimes don't know how we really feel and also because we don't always feel safe to share it.

But you know what emotion is always safe? Anger. People fear anger, people comply with anger, people seem to respect anger. It's amazing to me how easy it is for the same person who can't show their hurt, to show their anger. I get the vulnerability piece, and so I guess what truly amazes me is that we don't see anger for the vulnerability it causes. If you just take a second to think of all the dumb things you've ever said or done simply out of anger, however, you'll probably get the vulnerability piece I'm referencing. I myself can easily think of situations where I let anger or apathy takeover because I just didn't want to "go there in my feelings..."

All of this would be well and good except that it hinders our ability to really communicate. If Nene had either known how or felt safe enough to tell Sheree, "listen, I'm really sincerely hurt that you would believe this man having never checked with me" and if Sheree felt that sincerity, their whole conversation would've gone differently. Both of them wanted an apology from the other and neither of them knew how to extract it in a healthy way.

I'm reminded of an exchange I had with a friend one time where I think I was just frustrated with their backwards ass way of showing affection. So many times I've heard people say "I wouldn't (enter annoying/harmful/stupid thing) if I didn't love you..." and think that was ok. This friend was one of those people, though they weren't even keen on saying that much. I was just supposed to know that when it felt like they were mentally and emotionally poking me over and over with a pen, it meant they trusted me and cared about me. It didn't help that they were miserable at the time, themselves. In any case, one day I had had enough. I was having a bad day and here this friend comes needing me to support them through yet another day of self-imposed bullshit and I literally didn't have it in me to go there, so I shut down, as I'm apt to do when I feel something but either don't know how or don't feel safe enough to express it. They picked up on my shutting down as anger (an emotion everyone is really good at expressing) and fell apart in my little hands. Just about anything I'd ever wanted to hear them say, I got out of them that day. Not since then, though.

That emotional inability -- both my friend's to really just tell me that I was appreciated and mine to adequately express that I was feeling smothered and annoyed -- is like emotional blackmail. If you're not expressing your real feelings in an attempt to extract a particular emotion from me, that's wrong and you need to cut it out.

I'll end with an example I think we can all see in our own lives: A man meets a woman he's really interested in. He thinks she's great, maybe even the one. His only problem is that he's already got a boo-thang who he thinks he might be in love with. He's pretty sure if he tells either about the other, they'll both tell him to kick rocks and so he doesn't tell either about the other. His inability to choose means two women think they have something real and one of, if not both of them, are in for a rude awakening. This is the same thing that happens when you can't express your emotions adequately. I'm thinking you feel one way and I respond to you accordingly only to find out you feel another...

Not the business, yo.



I often talk about the motifs in my life. Often my blog posts come from seeing something happen (usually to me) over and over again in a short period of time.

I also recently decided that I'm on the autism scale. To some that might read as insensitive or improper or maybe even ignorant. That's fine. In whatever case, I have decided that; additionally, one of the symptoms of some forms of mild autism is the rapt attention paid to patterns (it is worth noting that exactly what symptoms are indicative of autism seems to vary from medical professional to medical professional, but there are some symptoms that most agree on and I haven't found "noticing patterns" to be one of those). My self-diagnosed, most likely non-existent, extremely mild almost unnoticeable case of autism leads me to draw a lot of conclusions about life.

The latest conclusion I've drawn is that our society has determined that choice is a form of absolution. If I can prove you had a choice, I can prove that you were at fault for what happened (or didn't happen) to you.

I use this when I work with children all the time. I give them a choice, they suffer the consequences (and we all know I'm big on consequences and repercussions). The point is always to teach a lesson on a)good decision making b) consequences and repercussions and often c)shutting the hell up and listening.

I see it play out sometimes when I'm talking to a friend who's upset because her boyfriend chose to spend time with his friends instead of her. The implication being, of course, he made the wrong decision and so it follows that she would be upset about this.

This line of reasoning actually works out very well. You have a choice, you make a choice and then things happen. The only person to be upset with is yourself. It is this very logical line of reasoning that often leads to me telling people that no, I won't be accompanying them to a certain place for these certain reasons because it is my choice and if I should so happen to make the wrong one the only person who gets screwed (in the not good way) is me. Period.

But what if this choice thing is just an illusion? What if it appears that an individual had a choice that they didn't really have? Can I still say they deserve whatever comes to them? What constitutes choice anyway?

My most favorite dictionary,, defines choice as follows:
choice [chois] Show IPA noun, adjective, choic·er, choic·est.
an act or instance of choosing; selection: Her choice of a computer was made after months of research. His parents were not happy with his choice of friends.
the right, power, or opportunity to choose; option: The child had no choice about going to school.
the person or thing chosen or eligible to be chosen: This book is my choice. He is one of many choices for the award.
an alternative: There is another choice.
an abundance or variety from which to choose: a wide choice of candidates.
something that is preferred or preferable to others; the best part of something: Mare's Nest is the choice in the sixth race.
a carefully selected supply: This restaurant has a fine choice of wines.
a choice grade of beef.
These words "right" and "power" and "opportunity" and "option" suggest to me that choice is a big damn deal.

I'll tell you what's got me thinking so specifically about choice. I just finished watching a documentary called The Price of Pleasure which aims to generally explore, among other things, how choice (liberty), commercialism, sex, money, capitalism and even feminism all play together in the creation and consumption of pornography. One theme I kept hearing in the interviews with individuals I presumed to be casual consumers of porn was "choice." In one part, where the documentary brings the ATM (ass to mouth) genre up, a man who is completely anonymous (you can't see his face and his voice is distorted) explains that while it does seem to be a very disgusting thing for a woman to do, he always assumes that the women in these films choose to do it and so it's fine.

I was really appalled at his statement. Perhaps I was more appalled at the way in which I could tell even he wondered if what he was saying was true, but that the opportunity (oh look, a code word) to absolve (oh look, another code word) himself of any real responsibility (however small) in the degradation of another human being was just too good to pass up. One interviewee in the film was a former porn actor who said, "When your best choice is taking off your clothes and sticking toys in your cunt for money, I think there's a real problem with the labor system." That sort of struck a nerve with me, too. "Your best choice..."

It seems that others' choice can absolve us of responsibility, but not the individual. That's kind of odd

See the problem with the logic behind the idea that if you have a choice and you make a decision, whatever comes of it you deserve, is the suggestion that all your choices are equal. Or even that you had a say in what those choices were.

Choosing between spending quality time with your girl or your boys is way different from choosing between eating today because you got paid to take your clothes off or not eating for an indefinite amount of time because you didn't.

This also brings me around to the story of Amber Cole (I'm going to trust your google skills are as good as mine if you don't know who she is). As usual the media went straight for her and all the bad choices she made. Some bloggers even got really novel and went after the bad choices her parents made. It's just now rising up in people's consciousness to wonder what in the hell was wrong with the three boys who made some disgusting choices themselves. For whatever reason, though, generally the opinion has been that Amber Cole had a choice, she made it and now she suffers the consequences: being pseudo-famous at 14 for performing oral sex on another underage youth and having it videotaped, which I guess, if you're no longer 14, is hard to understand or really grasp how amazingly terrible that is for her and will continue to be for her for quite a while.

Amber had choices. She did. She made the wrong one. But there's more to choice than looking at A or B and picking the prettier one. When we make decisions we have a lot of things to consider. Not just consequences but end goals and wants; dreams and hopes; plans. For some folks the plan is to eat today so the choice has to be whichever one will bring food. That seems to be something more of us can understand. But what about the hope to be liked? Or appreciated? If you're 14 and you see that the people you perceive as being liked or appreciated in a manner you want to be liked or appreciated perform oral sex (or other sexual favors) for guys, AND the specific person from whom you want attention and love gives you very specific things to do (perform oral sex) to get love from them, then I suppose I can see why Amber Cole thought that was her best choice. When you're no longer 14, it can be hard to remember how pressingly important it was to be liked and appreciated by your peers and if you've never been a 14 year old girl who may or may not find the attention of boys to be a confidence booster then you really won't ever understand why performing oral sex on a boy while being videotaped seems like the best choice.

This choice thing has also played out in the conversation about the 99% where the ignorance of those who are more fortunate shows up every time. Recently an article in my alma mater's school newspaper had a more than a few people feeling a little disgust. In an article titled We Are the 1%, the author argues that the individuals who attend this Top 20 ranked school are apart of the 1% because statistically speaking most of them have scored consistently higher than others on tests, and worked harder and done more to be able to reap the rewards of a Top 20 education. He says,
I guess the loudest members of the Bottom 99 percent are just resentful because we worked hard while they were out having a good time. If they really want to climb the social ladder, what they should be doing now is working hard, improving their lives and join the ranks of the top 25 percent, who still have it very good (if indeed they aren’t already a part of that group). Even the bottom 25 percent still has it relatively good in America, compared to the lower class in many other countries.
The point of course being that those who don't make the cut, however you're slicing the pie, have only themselves to blame. They chose not to work as hard. They chose not to do as much. They chose to be at the bottom.

This is the epitome of institutionalized racism. And though this article wasn't about race, didn't argue specifically that the reason black unemployment is so high is because black folks are lazy; didn't say that women make less than men in 2011 because men are better, the prevailing notion that those who don't have don't have because they didn't work hard or pull themselves up by the bootstraps is there front and center and it's that same argument -- which is really about choice -- that has kept a lot of good things from coming to those who deserve it most.

It's not a choice when you're choosing between bullshit and bullshit. It's not a choice when your short-term well being (physical, emotional; perceived, actual) is on the line. It's not really a choice when your predicament of having to choose is ultimately through no fault of your own. It's also not valid to use someone else's shitty choice options to absolve yourself from responsibility of what happens to them. Just because I had two options doesn't mean they were fair options and doesn't mean I deserve whatever happens to me. Sometimes you do the best you can and still end up with nothing to show for it but two really bad options and one big decision.

I do want to circle back and make it clear that I don't think that pornography consumers are evil people (although some of this shit y'all be watching is absolutely horrifying and I say that with an open mind) and I don't necessarily think that just because you enjoy seeing a man (forgive my graphic words here) shove his penis so far down a girl's throat that she gags repeatedly and her eyes almost pop out of her head, you're therefore responsible for whatever mental and emotional if not physical toll that takes on her body (though I do think you're odd, I'm not going to lie). I also don't mean to suggest that these aren't grown ass individuals participating in grown ass activities. But just because all of that is generally true, that doesn't change the fact that someone has to bear the consequence -- for consequences ALWAYS come from choice. And with that being the case, doesn't it seem to always go that the person who usually bears it is the weakest (either by circumstance or relativity)? The one with the most to lose?

I also want to be clear that while I don't at all think that what has happened to Amber Cole on a public scale is acceptable, she did make a choice that even at 14 she should've known better than to do (teens do have a hard time thinking ahead, that's scientific). So did those boys and it's really shitty that they're not being publicly "spoken to" in the same manner as she is.

And yeah, some folks have made some really bad decisions all on their own that keep them out of the 1%, or even the upper parts of the 99%. That doesn't mean to me, however, that those who have benefited from that shouldn't bear some of the responsibility of bringing all this stuff back to some sort of equilibrium.

I'm still left wondering, though, what is choice? If not an opportunity for absolution and not always rainbows and butterflies what is choice really all about? Exercising a right? Showing your power of your own situation? Is this how we know the difference between a choice (time with your boys or your girl) and a non-choice, choice (eating because I got naked or not eating because I stayed clothed)?



I'm into mental health. Y'all know that.

I'm very much into the mental health of minority children -- especially black children. Unfortunately our community just doesn't value mental health and aside from not wanting to send our kids to therapy we also aren't the best stewards of their mental health to begin with.

One thing that all my education makes hard is talking to my mom. I get, on a much deeper and effective level, so much more why I am the way I am and why our relationship is the way it is: functional. Don't get me wrong: we love each other very much and I think it's pretty safe to say we'd both die for each other in a heart beat. But that closeness that a lot of mothers and daughters have -- that friendship that a lot of adult daughters have with their mothers -- is not quite what we have. I'm still fighting, at almost 25, for her to see me and then treat me as an adult. My counselor really put me on game when he suggested that our communication style is partly to blame. She talks to me like I'm 12 and I immediately respond like it's 1998 and then it's all downhill from there.

I've tried to communicate some of this to her, but it's not information that really jives with her own opinions. Basically, she's just not at a place to hear it and I'm learning to accept that maybe she never will be.

Today I remembered an incident that happened when I was about 9 years old that has always been a little touchy for me but I never knew why. All in all, it was really an innocuous happening. My mom struggled for years to get me up in the morning. I am NOT a morning person. Wasn't then and I'm still not. I'm a night owl living in an early bird's world and it's horrible. In any case, one morning she'd had enough of threatening me and almost being late so she decided to teach me a lesson. She let me go back to sleep and she left me at home. When I finally woke up, I panicked. I remember searching the house and eventually finding myself standing in front of the phone trying to figure out who to call or what to do. In my recollection, it was just then that the phone rang and I grabbed it, hoping it was my mom. It was -- she laughed at my concern and told me my godmother would be by to pick me up in the next 30 minutes. She briefly lectured me on why she did that and everything was "fine."

I was a little traumatized though. Waking up to no one in the house at 9 when you're not expecting that can throw you off. And when my mom would re-tell the story in later years (and she, in fact, will STILL tell this story: she gets the biggest kick out of it) she seems to most enjoy telling everyone how "the phone didn't even ring before she picked it up..." and then she gets a good laugh along with her audience, at my expense, and wraps up telling everyone she didn't have a problem out of me after that... (which is probably stretching the truth a bit; did I mention I'm NOT a morning person).

Now, with my education in addition, I look back on that and get it -- because I get cultural norms here and I get the single parent thing and I get discipline and all that -- but I can't help but wonder what the incident and continual joking about the incident really taught me. That it's ok to scare a 9 year old like that and have laughs for years after if it means she learned a lesson about getting up? That that is more important than figuring out why, she has a hard time falling asleep AND waking up?

If I tried to talk about this with my mom, she'd tell me I was being way too sensitive and a few choice other things, and she might be right, but what if she's not?

It's like her with nutrition. My mom's been trying to help everyone around her be healthy for over a decade now and it's taken just that long for people to listen. When my mom was first talking about juicing in the early 2000s, my family thought she was certifiable and they HATED for her to get on a lecture kick. Nowadays they call her up first to ask about this vitamin or this new juicing recipe or whatever. I try to remember that when I think about opportunities to talk to her about how we can be better and support each other's mental wellness better. Hopefully it won't take 10 years though.


A Conversation With Myself About Safety in Euphemisms

I'm a fan of good euphemisms. My fanship is more tongue-in-cheek than anything though. I love a good euphemism because I'm fascinated by how people would rather sugarcoat their meaning than to just come on out and say it.

So I'm reading an assignment for class and it's becoming apparent to me that this book was written for white people. I keep thinking to myself "well, if I feel like I want to say that in class, I should probably say 'this book was written for folks with higher SES than myself...'

And then I have to ask myself why in the hell I would say that when what I actually mean, and what is actually true, is that this book was written for white people. It's not a bad thing, just a point that maybe what's included in this book isn't, as a whole work, applicable to a lot of people's lives, including my own.

And I tell myself that the reason I'd do that is two-fold -- for one, we talk about class because it's more encompassing and relevant than race in some cases and two, it'll keep all the white folks out of their feelings forcing me to spend more time assuring them I don't think they're racist and trying to refocus them on my actual point than making said actual point.

I agree with myself that this may be purposeful, but I wonder since when did we use class all the time? Why is that taken better than race and who actually decided that class was more encompassing than race?

And myself realizes that it was white people. White people decided we should use class because it's more encompassing and they have a point. Some things effect poor folks -- regardless of race -- more than rich folks. But what about things like that pesky unemployment rate which, sure, hurts poor folks but is actually hurting people of color a LOT more? But you know when you talk about class instead, when you say that something is hurting poor people, it gives white folks some cover. They can pretend that you're not really talking about their privilege or ignorance. You're talking about some other group of which they may or may not be a part of.

This makes sense. If you're in a room full of folks, most of whom will be white probably, and you make a generic comment about how terribly our tax laws treat the working poor versus the wealthy, it won't necessarily be immediately apparent who in the room falls on which side of that line. If you, on the other hand, discuss how terribly our criminal system treats black folks versus white folks -- well it's immediately apparent who's winning in this case and you know what people don't like? Embarrassment. Personal attacks. Feeling helpless. And when everybody knows who you are in relation to a generic and potentially harmful statement such as that, well, you're probably going to be embarrassed and feel attacked and helpless.

So that's why -- I told myself -- it'll just be easier for you to use "class" IF you feel like it's necessary to point out that this book wasn't written for everybody. This way, you recognize that not all white people are bad and they won't get down in their feelings forcing you to abandon your initial point to reassure them that they are not bad people simply for being born not colored.


Parenting and why BSS Isn't The Answer

Let me be clear that this post aims not to be "parenting 101". Which I hope is for reasons that are pretty obvious and glaring. I'm not a parent and currently have no concrete plans to be a parent. That being said, I do work with kids. I have studied how people develop. So while I know very little about the requirements of parenting, I do know just a little bit about what children need to grow up mentally well. So go with me on this one for a second...

 :I'm not a fan of bad ass kids. BAKs, if you will. I think they need to be strung up by their toes and made to repeat items from an encyclopedia until their ears start to bleed. I'm serious. You don't get to just be bad. And after a certain age, all the things that one might generally use to get away with being a BAK goes down the drain. It's too many motherless or fatherless or homeless or whateverless people out here who are making it work. I guess my point is that I'm not one who thinks that BAKs don't bear a lot of the responsibility for their own behavior, especially after a certain age (usually I go with about 13, but it fluctuates).

 All that being said, the most critical time for developing humans is the first year and a half of their lives. If you're not a perfect parent any other time in life, strive for it then. Am I saying that a mistake as a parent means your kid is a hopeless hooligan? Nope. Am I saying that it's realistic to expect an individual, especially one who's never raised a child before, to know what to do every time something comes up? Not in the least. What I am saying, though, is that a lot of parents and children would be helped if people thought enough of child-rearing to think a little bit about what children need and what they don't need.

 What a child needs differs from child to child. Some need a lot of attention (positive, of course) and others need to be allowed room and space to explore. What all kids need, however, are boundaries. Every child is searching for boundaries and they're going to push and push until you set them. Yes, some children are just stubborn and want to do what they want to do almost seemingly from the womb and yes, those children can require some unique parenting techniques, but it's not impossible to set boundaries for even them.

 One of the huge disservices I believe we do to children is not following through on agreements with them. Over the summer I worked with gifted students doing afternoon activities. Don't let their intelligence level fool you -- there were PLENTY of BAKs in my groups. By the end of the week, several of the other teachers were scrambling to have me as their partner with one particular group of these kids who had become notorious for being problematic. The reason was, these kids listened to me. If I told them to have a seat, they did (some got right back up -- but hey, nobody's perfect). One thing I established early with these kids was that if I say I'm going to do something, I will.

One child had a water bottle that allowed him to mist (presumably) himself with water if he got hot. Of course a 10 year old boy is going to want to mist EVERYBODY but himself. I watched him do it to a buddy of his a few times, and let it go because they both seemed ok. However on the 2nd or 3rd time he misted his friend, I realized he was getting the girl next to his friend wet as well and she was not happy. I walked over and informed him that a)he needed to stop because class was starting, b) he need to stop because he was making a fellow classmate uncomfortable and c) he needed to stop because this wasn't the appropriate time. I emphasized that it didn't matter if his buddy liked the misting, he was still getting an unwilling classmate wet and he needed to be respectful of her space. He seemed to get it, so we went on with class.

Not 5 minutes later, I saw him misting his buddy and getting his other classmate wet when he thought I wasn't looking (game recognize game and I had peeped him early as one who will always scope the scene prior to acting out so I always had to be a little bit more stealthy about catching him). This time, I stopped the class to let him know of our new agreement: I would let him keep his water bottle at his chair if he agreed not to spray it anymore, at all, that day. If he didn't or couldn't keep his water bottle under control, I would have to take it for the rest of the day. He nodded his head and placed the bottle under his chair. Of course he couldn't resist trying to get one more spray out for the sake of pushing the boundaries and he got busted. I took the water bottle immediately despite his pleads that I not. At that point, I had to. For starters he needed to experience the consequences of not living up to his end of the agreement and I also had made this agreement in front of the whole class. Every other student was going to mark me as boundary-less if I didn't follow through. People are made examples of for a reason.

 Having a personal rule that if I tell a kid that if x happens again, x will happen to him, I MUST follow through, means I'm also far more cognizant of my "threats" (I prefer the term agreement). I have friends who like to use fear and intimidation, always threatening bodily harm. They would rather a child follow their rules out of fear and for some of them that works. It's my belief that kids get the lesson you're trying to teach a lot faster when they feel like they had a role in it. Make the decision to do what I've asked you to do and the consequences will be good. Make other decisions and the consequences won't be what you'd like. They can then extrapolate that out to other situations and make it a priority to make better decisions wherever they are. Kids who obey out of fear a)outgrow that fear eventually and b)will act however they please in other situations because their wanting to make good decisions isn't based in anything that's apart of them.

 In my previous life, my boss used to say that parents send the best kids they have to school each day. It's not like parents sit at home and decide which of their children they want to send out to represent their household, they send the ones they have. In that same vein, kids do the best they can with what they have. While I really do believe that life is about making choices and that you choose your behavior, when you think you only have certain choices, you might not make the best decisions. In other words, young people who don't have the tools to deal with disappointment, frustration, irritation, anger or even joy, happiness or success, will be a BAK. They experience these emotions or situations and have not the SLIGHTEST clue what to do with it so they push it away. There's a myriad of ways to do that, but think of your favorite BAK and you'll immediately know of a few tactics they employ.

 I'm not one who believes it's ever too late for a person to change. Even some of the older BAKs I've seen or worked with I felt could change with a little help and a lot of attention in the right way. But I think some of the tactics we employ with BAKs are only band-aids over a bullet wound. Shows like "Beyond Scared Straight" appeal to my ratchet side, but the side of me that keys into mental and emotional wellness rejects completely the notion that by taking a few BAKs into a minimum or medium security prison and letting convicts yell at them, threaten them with rape and violence, force them to their physical and emotional breaking point, etc... actually works in the long run. When individuals understand why making positive decisions actually are in their best interest they will make more of them than an individual who just wants to avoid punishment. Wanting to avoid punishment only goes so far when a child is dealing with a lot of internal struggles.

 Children need to know how to get attention in positive ways. They need to know that frustrations are a part of life and they need to know what to do with those emotions that don't involve harm to themselves or others. It's true: people do what works for them and BAKs are doing what works for them. Young girls sending naked pictures of themselves to boys, especially after so many stories of what happens to those pictures, seems so stupid -- even for teens who's sole purpose it seems is to be stupid. But when all you crave, and all you think you need, is attention -- this cheap variety of it, even with the known consequences, is worthwhile. These boys who join gangs and "love" to fight seem like the kind of kids you wanna put out in the middle of a crime-ridden neighborhood and let them see what "hard is" but what they're looking for is a place to belong and people who won't reject them. Gangs are a lot more accepting than a lot of supposed safe spaces out here and they are much more attractive to someone who feels like they've never had a place than you could begin to understand.

 Let me stop rambling about a topic that I could really go on and on about and just say: a)nothing about parenting or working with children is easy. There are people out here who have read the books, employed the techniques, and still ended up with a BAK, but that's where that personal responsibility comes in. All you can do is give your child(ren) (or the children you work with) the tools. They have to then use them. b)hug your kids. It's not a funny gimmick I kick on twitter, it's serious. Volunteer with these BAKs. Some of them you may never be able to get through to, but some you might. It is amazing what a little mature attention and challenging will do for a BAK. The other thing is you can always do your best to prevent a BAK. These kids don't just appear out of thin air. They don't wake up one day and decide being bad is a way of life. It's learned behavior -- overtly and covertly. Kids are sponges. Know that.


Taking Notes and Doing it Right

Bey is pregnant...

She was married first....

Apparently this is precisely how all women should carry about their business, and those who do it differently do it wrong.

I suspect that if doing it in that manner were easy or even plausible for all women, maybe we'd see more of it. But somehow women are supposed to successfully date, marry and get pregnant with no onus being placed on men. The same men who are told by our society (whether they act on this or not) that they are inherently better than women and therefore entitled to whatever they please, especially where women are concerned.

A woman who wants a child but doesn't want to deal with the things that often come up for heterosexual women who choose to involve themselves with men in long term and serious relationships is at a loss, I suppose, as we've determined that the only way to do this is to date, marry and then get pregnant.

A woman who makes her best effort to use protection, but is failed, as no form of contraception is 100%, is losing and should have an abortion -- but wait, no, no -- don't have an abortion as that too is a terrible thing for her to do.

A woman who thinks she's met the man she wants to be with forever and gets pregnant only to find that he's unable or unwilling to be a father (or maybe even get married) is hella screwed, I suppose.

Or what about the woman who just doesn't want to be married? So she can be with this guy for her whole life, she just can't have a baby? Oh. Ok.

And I've been very clear on this very blog about my feelings about having 2 parents who raise a child. I think that a child should have both their parents in their life if it's possible. I think a child should have the regular (practically every day) influence of both a male and a female, whether the male and female are biologically the parents and whether or not both the male and female live in the home. Period.

But those are the ideal settings and I say all of this as the child of a single parent who worked her ass off to make sure I had what I needed and I actually had all types of male figures in my life, but I still am painfully aware of the chasms that my father's absence created in my emotional landscape. It's not pretty and working through them has been everything but exciting, fun or easy. I see what it's like for folks like me who had even slightly lesser situations.

And then my final issue is WHERE IS THE ONUS ON THE MEN? I'm not sure how women are supposed to date, marry and then get pregnant when so many men want to do everything BUT marry you and are more than ready to impregnate you. We may not have a shortage of eligible men, but I sometimes feel like we have a shortage of eligible marrying-minded men. Ironic too since most of the commentary I've seen on this has been from men and women who are already married (and have even said that if they had to date today, they're not sure how they'd make it).

You know, the other thought I had when I first saw a comment on Beyonce doing it the right way was of her sister. Both of them were born into the same household (though it's a well known-fact among anyone who studies family inner-workings that the family dynamics for one child is never the same for the other) and she got pregnant then got married and then got divorced... She did it wrong, too, I suppose, but it appears, to someone who doesn't know her or him, that her son is doing just fine.

We treat marriage like the panacea that it isn't. Marriage doesn't fix problems just like having children doesn't fix problems. If a woman plans to bring a life into this world and then raise it, the only thing she MUST do is put forth her best effort to provide the best life for her child -- giving them the most opportunities she can, to excel. If she can do that alongside a life partner, that's all to the good and I'd argue for most women preferred, but if she can't it's certainly not our job to police her womb and tell her no kids. We don't have any place in a womb that's not ours.



Making Time

Yesterday on Black 'N Bougie, OneChele wrote a post about doing the relationship juggle. That is trying to find time for your girls (or boys) once you're in a serious and committed relationship. We all have things going on aside from relationship building -- work, volunteer activities, family -- so trying to find time for your folks when you're also making time to get to know someone on a significantly more (or maybe different) intimate level is really hard.

After reading through all of the comments and leaving my own, I really started to think a little bit harder about the friend I'm taking a break from. I said in my post on it that I"m not sure if I'm hating on her relationship and choosing to pretend that we're "in different places" or if we really are just in different places (and maybe her relationship is proof of that).

It also got me to thinking about my previously expressed opinions on friends that go months without speaking and then claim to "pick up right where they left off..."

And finally I had to think a little bit harder about what is really happening when a friend feels ditched because her girl got a man.

First off, I do need a break from my friend. Whether I'm hating or not, I clearly need to just take some time. I do feel ignored and taken for granted by her and I'm struggling with what it says that I haven't just called her to talk about it. Truth is, she's not doing too much differently than before she was in a relationship, she just has a good excuse now (and or an extra somebody in tow when I want to just hang out with her). I don't think I'm hating or being jealous, just honest, at least with myself (and only myself) about more of my friendships and what's really going on.

I've changed my mind about this general disbelief that you can go periods of time without talking to someone you're close to and then think everything starts right back up where you left off. Even when I wrote all that, I was doing the very same thing with my BFF. We don't talk every day, our schedules just won't allow it but when we do, it's like we just spoke yesterday and we do drive by texts and HeyTells and even fb messages occasionally. I think what I was really thinking about are the people who use that rule of thumb to be a bad friend. It's one thing to just have a lot on your plate, it's another to choose not to nurture a friendship because you take for granted that it will always be there. And only the two people in a friendship know which one it is so I can't really call bullshiggity on any of 'em except the ones I'm in.

The big one here is the relationship vs relationship piece. I think that both sides of the equation -- when an individual is feeling ditched for a new beau and when someone has a new beau and spends less time with their friend(s) -- spend a lot of time playing victim instead of remembering what it was like for them and/or trying to put themselves in the other person's shoes.

If we're honest about it, being in a new relationship is a lot of fun. It's new, for heavens sake and we all like new. It's not fair to expect your friend to have the option of spending mroe time with this new person in their life and not take it. Especially when you consider that we expect to, in just a few months, have a similar level of trust and connectedness with a s/o that we do with some of our oldest and closest friends (similar, not the same). That stuff takes time and energy and when you're trying to make it work long term, you just don't have extra to give out.

But on the flip side, after a certain age you know that s/os come and go. And it's hard to relinquish a prime spot to someone who might not be around in 3 months. Not to mention it's one thing to not see your friend as much as you used to and something completely different not to see them at all. That can be hard -- we rely on our good friends for support and what do you do when one is MIA.

Now if we're honest, we also have to admit that some people are just going to want the world. They're going to be the ones who think it's ok to not call you for 6 months and then pop up because the new boo is now the new ex. And you're going to have some people who think the whole world should revolve around them regardless of other people's lives. Those folks don't deserve true friends if you ask me and if you got one of those or are one, that's not ok. Change. That is unless, of course, the consequences are ok with you.

I just wonder. Is it so hard to let your friend have her booski? Is it so hard to let her be happy and work on her relationship? I also wonder if it's so hard to let your friends know that you still care about them, they still matter to you and you're still willing to give up a night to chill with them even though you have a new boothang (and might even lowkey rather be with them...)? A little compromise never hurt nobody, right? I can say that one thing I know is that when I've given my friends space to cultivate their new relationship, in a lot of cases, I've found that they didn't disappear on me. On the flip side, when I'm tied up in something important to me (as of late that's school) I'm more inclined to make time for the folks who give me breathing room and less inclined to have anything to do with folks who are always in my (enter communication method) whining about not seeing me. That's sweet the first time, cute the 2nd and irritating as hell every other time after that.

Just thinking out loud here, folks. It's a navigable situation, I believe, as long as both sides are willing to work it out.


The Bottom

My BFF called me just over an hour ago to tell me about his life since I saw him last week when he was in town for a conference. The highlight: he was diagnosed with major depression.

There's the obvious reasons he called to tell me about his breakdown on Monday and subsequent diagnosis: I'm in mental health, a counselor-in-training (practically a counselor at this point). I care a lot about mental health in the black community. I'm his BFF, I love and care about him, etc... but the more he talked the more I realized there was probably a bigger and deeper reason for his sharing. He didn't want me to experience it too.

My BFF and I are BFFs because we're so much alike. He pinpointed his ability, from both natural origins and because of our shared undergraduate major, to read people emotionally as one of the major causes of his illness. The more he talked the more it made sense to me why lately I've just been so tired. Why I pull away when people reach out to me and just want to be friends and do friend things. It's weird because as I've posted before, I think I understood it, but his situation made it real for me.

I'm damn intuitive. Like freakishly so. I can tell if something is wrong with a person, regardless of how well I know them, right off the bat. And then I have this strange need to take that burden off them and handle it myself or make them feel better, and I'm very adept at making people feel better. I've come to despise this about myself, but it's a double-edged sword. It's why people, especially people in need, are drawn to me. Why I'm going to make a good counselor. Why I always find myself in the middle of craziness. One of my attributes, really one of my blessings, is also a curse.

But all of that work is tiring. It is HARD to deal with my own stuff and go through a whole day taking on everyone else's stuff. It's exhausting and so it makes sense that sometimes I just want to be by myself. Sometimes I don't want to answer the phone. Sometimes even a simple request to hang out is just too much as I immediately know, even though it's sub-consciously -- that it will require me to be "on" and being "on" is too much all the time.

I know many of my friends might be surprised to read this. I also know that many of them aren't and have tried to get me to slow down and take better care, but it's hard to change something that feels like a gift -- a calling, even. What I need is to control it, not stop it.

My BFF's call today reminded me that if I'm not absolutely careful, I'm going to end up in his shoes and much more sooner than I suspect.

However, I'm so proud of him for being open about his struggles and being willing to grab this tiger by tail -- but then again that's him. It's one more thing that makes him amazeballs and I don't doubt that like everything else he tackles, this'll be handled effectively and in what'll feel like no time.


Private Decisions, Public Consumption

A running joke amongst me and a few of my friends (although sometimes I wonder if it's not believed by some of them) is that I'm involved in some... let's say unsavory and less than legal activities. The proof they say lies at least partly in my tendency to be sketchy. Ask me where I'm going and I'm probably not going to be specific. Ask me where I've been -- nope. Non-specific as possible.

In fact, just this weekend, one of my friends looked over and noticed that I had quite a bit of cash on my person. "Why do you have so much cash?" she asked. "Uhh. I have stuff to pay for..." I responded initially. That's the kind of sketchy responses I give. It's not that I'm purposefully trying to be hard to deal with. It's just that I don't deal in details when I don't think details are necessary.

And maybe I also avoid details to avoid scrutiny and having to explain and whatever else comes along with people knowing the intimate details of any one decision.

I thought about this as I popped in and out of the twitter conversation around Fantasia's announcement that she's pregnant. The basic assumption is that the father of her child is Antwaun Cook, the same man she reportedly had an affair with and the same man who's wife is still suing her. On her popular reality show we watched her confront him about the drama and seem to insinuate she wouldn't continue to see him. Not too long after a rumor surfaced that she'd had an abortion and not to long ago so did reports that she had been seen with him.

And now people are expressing some disappointment in Fantasia ('Tasia Mae as I affectionately call her). Of course, where there's an expression of one opinion, there are just as many expressing the opposite and wondering why the other side feels the way they do.

I get really annoyed with people who want to live the celebrity life, but don't want to pay the cost. I actually feel bad for celebrities. I don't want people I know making snap judgements about the things I do and expressing disapproval, so imagine having thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people you've never met and probably won't ever meet who get to know every detail about your life and every good and bad decision you make is put up for them to judge and comment on in public forums. I couldn't do it.

That's why I'm not going to be that famous.

So for individuals who find themselves in fame's arms, loving the experience: appreciating the money, the prestige, the validation but then are surprised and angered by the flip of that: the negative blog posts, the poor record sales, the jokes by late night show hosts, I can't conjure it up to feel bad for them. You gotta take the good with the bad in almost every situation.

Plus, we live in a time where celebrities are marketed to us to make us love them personally. There used to be a healthy separation between a fan and a celebrity. We used to get, even if we didn't realize we got it, that they produced something we liked not so much that we had to also like them personally. I think immediately of Tupac. Tupac was attacked in the media, like a lot of gangsta rappers from the early to mid-90s, but qualms with 'Pac were often over his lyrics, even though he was shot and accused of rape and spent time in prison. I don't mean to suggest he didn't receive ANY criticism about those things, but I don't think a rapper today could have those things in their history and continue to sell records. Someone would make sure that didn't happen.

So after celebrity machines do their work and make us feel like we personally know these celebrities so we'll watch their movies and tv shows or but their albums and go to their concerts, there's suddenly surprise that when even when a celebrity isn't performing fans expect them to be a certain way.

Is it fair? No. Should it be expected, though? I think absolutely yes. I think that if you want the fame you need to know what the downside of it is and you need to know that you can deal with it. It's not my fault if you don't do that...


Left in the Snow

I randomly remembered this story and I like to share stories, so here we go...

Shortly after the crazy blizzard in early 2010 that hit the east coast, I stumbled my way out to the street and my car to begin the terrible task of digging it out from under 20+ inches of snow. I had never had to shovel snow before this blizzard and while this particular day wasn't my first go and shoveling, it was my first time having to dig a car out.

A few things to know: my car was (is) a 95 Honda Accord Coupe. The doors on the car stretch back fairly far on the body of the car.

After being stuck in the house for what felt like years, I was definitely ready to spend all day outside shoveling my snow clean, if all day is what it took.

10 minutes into it, however, I recognized that I'd do myself a favor to make good use of physics, or chemistry or common sense and find the easiest route to getting my car out. I had taken stock of some of the other folks also shoveling their cars and noticed many of them only shoveling enough to maneuver their car out, so I figured I'd do the same. All I had to do was clear from the front of the car to just past the passenger door. With that plan, I had a snow patch a foot wide, 3 feet tall and 2 feet thick to get through. Nothing I couldn't handle, but by this point, I'd been outside working at it for close to an hour. My energy was dropping.

Just about that time, a car that was rolling down our street (why any cars were rolling down side streets at this point was beyond me, but I guess they wanted something to do too) slowed down right behind my car and a man got out.

"You need some help there young lady?"

Now, I gotta be honest with you. I wanted to give him the side-eye to end all side-eyes, but I was getting tired. "Yeah. I suppose I wouldn't mind-"

He cut me off. "Look, if you'd just shovel enough to open the door, you'd be fine. You can drive the car out from under the snow," he said as he grabbed the shovel from me. He added, in his best 'I know everything' voice, "you're doing more work than you have to. Here. Let me show you."

So I, as I always do in these types of cases, stepped back to let him do his work. He stuck the shovel in the snow with expert force only to find, just as I had, that the snow didn't give as easily as one might think. Of course 20+ inches of snow doesn't fall overnight. That takes time. And during the day the snow would melt on top and at night freeze over. So what I, and everyone else, was digging through was both snow and ice. It wasn't as simple as sticking a shovel in a few times.

Mr-know-it-all took a few more stabs at it before a car pulled up behind his, also wanting to get through. The man looked up and then promptly handed me my shovel back. "Here, let me go find parking on the other block and I'll be right back," he said quickly. He hopped in his car and headed down and around the block -- or so I thought.

I returned to what I had been doing before Mr Helpful arrived, but with a little less fervor. I didn't want to do too much of his work, of course. About 7 minutes later, I was pretty sure he wasn't coming back.

Guess the snow was a little too much for him.


Living in the Past

...all I can think about is a frame for our future, and pictures of the past...
-Beyonce "Dance For You"

In the upcoming school year, I'm going to be like a chicken with her head cut off. I have NO idea how this is going to work, but it will. It always does. One opportunity I was eager to accept is a chance to interact with the undergraduates at my alma mater, and current school, in an advising capacity. I adored my time in undergrad and anything I can do to help others have a great time, I want to.

But in conversations with fellow alums and just general reflection, I'm realizing that I might need to check some of my eagerness.

When I was in undergrad, we didn't really care for our alums too much. It felt like any interaction with them found its way to an opportunity for them to tell us how we weren't as good as they were when they were in our shoes. We (the black students) weren't striving for a better school for ourselves like they had done. We weren't militant enough, we weren't close enough, we weren't loud enough -- we weren't enough. In turn we shied away from having to do anything more than listen to them drone on and on about their boring lives on a panel.

But now that I am an alum, I get it. But what I get is that those alums hadn't done a lot of self-reflecting or bothered to get to know us and what issues mattered to us so they could help. Instead, they wanted to re-live their undergraduate years through us. Accomplish all the things as alums they weren't able to as undergrads.

I realized this in full strength this morning when I was thinking about a meeting I have tomorrow to begin finalizing a program I'm really excited to be creating and running in the fall. I started thinking about some of the underhanded things that went on when I was in undergrad that discouraged my participation in some organizations and how easy it would've been to change those things if enough people had gotten together and refused to go along to get along. These things were so disgustingly reckless that in hindsight, I'm embarrassed to say I didn't do anything about them. But because I was silent, and others were silent, they're still happening and even as an alum I'm still feeling some of the repercussions.

And then I started thinking about how I wanted to remind the undergrads I'd meet with of several things along those lines...

That was about the time I had to slap my own fool self and recognize how I was quickly turning into the type of alum I'd always said I disliked and didn't want to be: trying to change the things that I didn't feel empowered to change back when I was a student. There's a fine line here, between illuminating things for these students that I didn't know back when I was in their position and forcing them to fight a fight I should've fought.

I think we all do this in various facets of our life. It's true that hindsight is 20/20. I speak so assuredly now of any number of things that are true for people younger than me, in any setting but I have to realize that if I knew then what I know now things would have been different. Not only did I not know what I was doing, but I didn't know that I didn't know. That comes with age and experience and I just as I didn't have the wisdom back then to make some of the choices I'd make now, neither do folks who are in the shoes I just left a few years ago.

My job is to show them the potholes I fell into and give them tools to avoid them. What I can't and shouldn't do is try to push them around the holes. If they fall in, they fall in and they'll learn, like I learned. I can't live in the past because I can't change it -- I can change tomorrow though.



Why everything that's supposed to be bad make me feel so good? Everything they told me not to is exactly what I would. Man I tried to stop, man I tried the best I could, but...
-Kanye West "Addiction"

As most everyone with an internet connection knows by now, Amy Winehouse was found dead today. There's no official word on cause of death and last I saw authorities in Britain are treating it as "unexplained." Even with that being the case, most people have assumed, and with reason, that her death is most likely related to her infamous drug use and abuse. Based on what I do know about Amy Winehouse, I'm sure that she wasn't a heavy drug abuser, I'm sure she was heavily addicted.

I saw a few folks on twitter pondering the difference between addiction and heavy drug use or someone using drugs a lot. There is a difference because one is poor self control and the other is a disease.

I was once in love with a guy who lied to me almost non-stop about almost every thing. You name it, he lied to me about it. I was in love with a guy, same guy, who after blowing through his own trust fund, stole thousands of dollars from his parents, accused his beloved nanny of stealing the money and refused to return it. This same guy, this guy I was in love with, totaled not one, but two cars. He did sneaky things like disabling his brother's car so he could use it while his brother was gone. I once loved a man who put himself in harms way regularly, to satisfy his own needs (once, he drove 2 hours to another city, parked in a WaHo parking lot and when he woke up the next morning had no idea where he was, how he got there or what happened -- he called me in a panic).

He did all of these things because he was addicted to drugs. Namely alcohol and opiates. I have stories for days about the things he did or said or put me through that revolve around his usage. If you've ever known someone, much less loved someone, who was addicted to drugs you know that the things I listed above only scratch the surface of what can happen. I know addiction has to be a disease because I can't believe that someone would do the things an addict does, on a daily basis (and I'm not even referring to injecting strange liquid into their blood streams), and not have some type of disease. Poor self-control can surely lead to someone falling victim to an addiction disease, but the two descriptors are for different types of people.

I'm not going to pretend that addicts shouldn't be held responsible for the things they do and maybe that's what makes it hard for some people to differentiate between a person with poor self control and a person with a problem. Being addicted to drugs or alcohol does not absolve you from responsibility in the same way we might not judge an end-stage terminal cancer patient who can no longer care for their own hygiene. But even as we lock up alocholics who hit kids with cars, we can't forget that they have a problem that requires specialized treatment.

I watched J's downward spiral from having poor self control to full blown addiction. It was really easy for me to pretend that he was still just a selfish man who wanted what he wanted when he wanted it, even when the signs pointed so clearly to addiction. But now that it's been several years and I can look back with much more clear vision, I can see the clear line that he crossed when he went from just wanting to forget his problems to needing it to function.

I hope that if you have never known anyone personally who was addicted to something, you never do. It's not an experience I think any one needs in this life. However, regardless of whether or not you have that personal connection, I hope that your sympathy for those who really struggle with addiction increases. They made choices that put them there, yes. They do really bad things and should be held accountable, yes. But being addicted to something is far different from using it or doing it a lot. Addiction is a whole new ball game and causes you to do things that in your sober mind, you'd never imagine doing...


Odds and Ends on a Saturday Night

Because she loves me in a publicly secret sort of way, @Reads4Pleasure tagged me to do this, and because I'm too lazy to go switch out my a/v cables on the tv so I can stream some netflix and nothing's on tv and I refuse to do any of the other work I need to do, I'm about to fill this out.

*cracks knuckles*

Seven Random Things About Me

I broke my leg when I was 2, the doctor set the cast wrong and so my hip turned out and now I walk funny (with my toes pointing out).
I've never been to a domestic beach. Was supposed to go last week, but got kidney stones so I guess I'm just not supposed to. *shrugs*
I don't like fruit. Any kind. I used to, apparently, but as far back as my memory serves, I never have.
I fenced in high school.
When I eat onion rings, I don't eat the onions. Just the fried, bad for you, high in cholesterol part.
I sucked my thumb until I was 9.
Scottie Pippen is my 4th half cousin, 2 times removed.

Q&A Session
Favorite color: Purple
Favorite song: NOT a question I enjoy. One of them is "Cupid" by 112.
Favorite dessert: Red Velvet Cheesecake
Biggest pet peeve: People who waste my time. In the immortal words of one, @whatuwontsay, "waste something that belongs to you..."
When You Are Upset, You: Nap, write or listen to music
Your Favorite Pet: Umm... one of the goldfish I fed too much to and killed?
Black or White: Why so harsh??
Biggest Fear: My mother's death or drowning...
Best Feature: This weird ability to stay calm when most others are freaking out.
Everyday Attitude: "Be me, do what I believe and to be myself..." - Left-Eye
What is Perfection: Anything that allows me to laugh, sleep and eat... simultaneously. Anything else is a cheap effort at it.
Guilty Pleasure: watching bad black movies.

I'll tag anyone who reads this to do it.


Why I'm Not Going Back to THAT Church...

A few disclaimers...

One, it's a SHAME that my first full post on my churchin' activities is going to be negative. It really is.

Two, I hate when people use random acts that happen in churches they've never been to as their excuse for why they don't go. Er'body ain't into church, but to act like you're not into church or by some extension Christianity because some screw up like Bishop Eddie Long got accused of abusing boys is RIDICULOUS. So this post is by no means that. This post is a little talk about how there's a way to do everything and it's using the setting of a church I recently attended and is why I'm not going back to THAT church; not why I'm not going back to church. I church, so I'll be back in one on Sunday.

We good? Aight then, let's go.

One of my most major beefs with the black church is the uber traditionalist ways. That's for some people, and that's fine, but there's so much done in the black church because of tradition that is not biblical. Now, I'll be honest and say that my issues with the traditions are less with that they're non-biblical and more that they feel self-serving, arduous and pointless.

I say all that to set the stage for the following statement: It's already a lot to get me to go to a traditional church, so when I do, let's don't give me reasons to further be disappointed and irritated.

This past Sunday, I attended church with my mom because I've missed a few weeks and I know she likes for me to go with her when I'm in town. From the word go, even though there was really nothing initially amiss/different from what I usually experience there, I wasn't feeling it. The pastor, who is a good friend of my mom's, made the unusual ask that the choir sit down in the congregation so he could see everyone. This church isn't big, it's two aisles of about 8 pews on either side. Not big.

This particular preacher is well-versed in the Bible. He knows his stuff. More than that, he's passionate, which is a good thing. He really wants to serve God and he wants to expose people to Christ. It's awesome... in theory.

His passion tends to display itself in a very whiney, y'all suck, lecture manner. That is to say his sermons tend to end by lecturing his small congregation on all their many shortcomings. I'm not above that. Sometimes we need people to get real with us and say "Yo, you messin up, b..." but EVERY SUNDAY?

This past sunday, the thing that set him off was so miniscule that his being set off pissed me off so bad that I considered walking out. My mom's relationship with him is what saved him.

He was upset that so many people (and remember, this is a SMALL church) weren't reading along in their Bibles.

That's it.

He was mad that not absolutely everyone in the congregation bothered to follow along in their Bibles.

In 2011, churches are posting twitter feeds up behind pastors, putting up the verses being read, encouraging people to use their mobile devices to access a Bible -- church is going high-tech in 2011 and for a myriad of reasons. For one, the idea is to attract more young people, for two going high-tech suggests a willingness to expand and meet our society where it is. Within that, I see also a recognition that there's an easy way to reach people you might not otherwise reach.

So here we are, faced with a few people who aren't reading/following along in their Bibles during the sermon and the first reaction is to lecture. That didn't sit right in my spirit. Have we addressed some of the possible seed issues? Maybe the folks who weren't following along don't have Bibles. There are none in the pews. Maybe these folks can't read. That's still an unfortunate reality in 2011. Maybe these folks don't know the books well enough and feel overwhelmed by trying to flip back and forth. And then maybe they don't care. Maybe they just show up for the look of it. But until the issue has been determined, who are you to stand up in a powerful spot -- behind the pulpit -- and yell at them?

I was so disappointed. God and I had to have a chat. I needed to calm down on that Sunday afternoon. This isn't the first time something like this has happened and so what I thought was a fluke is apparently a regular occurence. When I walked out of the door, however, I didn't even pause as I thought to myself, "won't be stepping back in here..."

Please don't mistake what I'm saying. Anger, and forthrightness and in your faceness has a place in the church. Jesus went all up and through the temple overturning tables and yelling and being very angry because folks were in there acting up and being disrespectful. Jesus was no meek and mild mannered man, and Christianity isn't a meek and mild type of situation. It's not his anger that bothers me -- it's the what are you doing about it question that goes unanswered that's bothering me. Church is where people come for help and it seems our churches are doing that less and less...


Tomorrow I'm headed to the beach with a longtime friend, her boyfriend and one of her other friends. To say I'm not particularly excited about the trip is to understate it. I've backed out of this trip several times, but my need and desire for a few days away from anyone who can place a demand on me or make a request of me lures me back in.

This friend and I have known each other for just under a decade. We've been good friends almost the same length of time. I've considered her a good and close friend for a while now and so now that I'm beginning to realize, or at least think, this friendship is coming to a crossroads is a bit of a shocker.

I can't tell if it's her new relationship, if I'm a hater or if we really have just become two different people but I know that I have almost no desire to have a place in her life. There's no ill will, she hasn't done anything crazy to me and as far as I know we're both on great terms with each other. I just don't care to have her around or be around her.

Maybe my word choice is harsh, I'm not sure. It's not that I don't care about her or this friendship, I just don't get what I'm doing anymore. Our conversations feel elementary to me (another piece of evidence that we're growing apart) and I feel like with good reason, her priorities and focus are everywhere but with this friendship.

I know that what I definitely need is some time to step back from it and take a breather. Whether we continue on as friends or not, I surely need a break to not be worried about anything that has to do with her and me and us. So I'm thinking, ladies and gentlemen, this trip -- amidst all the issues I've had with it from jump street -- will be our last hoorah for a while...

Not sure she'll really notice.

Everything I Know About Cheating I Learned From 90s Girl Groups

This post has been bumping around in my head for several days now. It all started when my iPod got off on some old Destiny's Child and played "With Me." I guess I hadn't ever REALLY thought about the lyrics, but take a look at the chorus:
Do you ever wonder when he dont come who he goes to see?
And why in the middle of the night he leaves you alone, leaves you alone?
Do you ever wonder when he dont come home who he goes to see
And why in the middle of the night he leaves you alone
Everything he likes is with me
What REALLY got me was a line in one of the verses where Beyonce sings that if SHE were the woman this song is directed to, she woulda been told ol' boy to get gone. Destiny's Child had the nerve to have Parts 1 AND 2 to this song, just in case you needed to be told again that your man had stepped out on you.

Anyway, I got to thinking about the way Alicia Keys got ethered by the general R&B fanbase when she married Swizz Beats and how so many people felt personally offended and let down that she would write a song like "Karma" and then date a married man (and later marry him before his divorce was final enough for us outsiders). Ok so yeah, maybe she was wrong... would we have loved her more if she'd been like some of our favorite girl groups and been 100 with it?

Take our favorite Unsung girls, SWV. They had a few questionable songs, including "You're the One"
I know that you're somebody else's guy
But these feelings that I have for you
I can't deny
She doesn't treat you
The way you want her to
So come on stop fronting
I wanna get with you
What your girl don't know won't hurt her
Anything to make this love go further
An admitted favorite song of mine is Xscape's "My Little Secret," which, as we all well know is all about the fun in creeping...
I like being in the same room with you and your girlfriend
The fact that she don't know, that really turns me on.
She'll never guess in a million years that we got this thing going on

TLC, an all time favorite group of mine is of course famous for their song "Creep" which, while about creeping on your man cause he's creeping on you is still about creeping...
Though I might mess around, it's only cause I need some affection
So I creep, yeah just keep it on the downlow
Said, nobody is supposed to know.
So I creep. Yeah, cause he doesn't know what I do
And no attention goes to show...
A little known fact is that LeftEye didn't like this song. She disagreed with the premise all together (recall she [accidentally] burned her boyfriend's house down because he was cheating). In fact, her raps on the remixes to this song are the antithesis to the point of the song. She raps about the consequences to creeping instead of the causes.

In 1996, a forgotten duo called Changing Faces told their neglectful man they had somebody else in, yeah... that's right... "I Got Somebody Else"
I got somebody else
The one I've waited for
He gives me loving, all that I wish for
I got somebody else
Someone who's really sure
I'm so in love
He's all that I wish for
We seem to like it better when the lady has a reason to step out, no?

Bad Boy's bad girls, Total, got right down to it with "Bet She Can't"
Am I badder than your girl?
I hit you with the yes-yes-y'all
Bet she can't do it like I do it,
'Cause when I do I throw my back into it.
And if you doubt me then let me prove it,
'Cause I can turn you out.
If you're the girlfriend, I don't know how you compete with that.

I know I'm missing a few. Something about the 90s pulled out every type of girl group you could think of and many of them sang something about stepping out on their man, while also having a few tracks about their man stepping out on them. Did I miss any of your favorites?

Cross posted at Time In My Brain


Coming Home

Ever since I left my hometown 7 years ago to attend college, I've been struggling with the proper decorum for visiting when I'm back in town. That is, how do I prioritize who I visit and what's the best way to avoid seeing people I deem not important enough? As the years have gone by, this struggle has only intensified.

I was amazed, during my first few visits back home, how many people I didn't even think knew I had left were pressed to see me. I'd get home to a list that seemed a mile long of people who had called my mom and asked when I'd be home and then requested a visit. At first I tried to comply, but eventually I got fed up with spending hours at people's houses who a)weren't checking on me during the year and b)quite frankly bored me. Plus it was seriously cutting into how much time I had to spend with my friends and the other people I did want to see. Not to mention a lot of these people were friends of my mom, not friends of mine. I just stopped feeling beholden to them, especially once my mom gave me her blessing on it.

And now, when I come home, I pretty much just want to spend time resting or hanging out with my mom. There are definitely friends here I want to see but we're all getting older and so many of them have busy lives that they can't just stop because I'm in town. Funny -- that doesn't seem to be holding true for some of these other people, but whatevs.

I'm thinking about this stuff because I just got an email from a longtime mentor and friend. She and I have been emailing each other regularly since I was a junior in high school. I'm very close with her and her family and see them as family in a lot of ways. Lately, she's been asking me a lot about coming down to spend the night with them when I'm in town. I've had legitimate reasons in the past for having to turn down the invitation and I imagine that I'll continue to have legitimate reasons, but her request this time was less asking and more "I know I keep asking and I keep asking because you haven't said yes..."

I could've made time to acquiesce and it would seem that I would want to given my relationship with them. Her husband is like a father figure for me and her sons are like little brothers. I owe them so much and they exposed me to so many things for which I'm forever grateful. But thinking about spending a night just doesn't excite me the way it used to.

I've grown a lot in the last 7 years, which is how long I've been away from home and thus away from them. I've matured, been exposed to new things and situations and people and I have a larger world view. Though I love them, when I'm with them I can't help but feel like I'm being closed in. The things they worry about, think about, joke about and even judge feel so small and miniscule to me. This sounds like such an exponentially ridiculous thing to use as why I don't want to fulfill a simple request, but it's still my truth. On the times I have visited, I couldn't get back to my mama's house fast enough.

Having the background that I do, I'm frequently around less, shall we say "cultured," individuals. This means I've had to dance around the line of acceptable and unacceptable. How much ignorance do you put up with before you hip people to game. Like when my uncles refer to gay men as "sissies" -- not out of malice, but out of ignorance. Do I remind myself that just because a white person tells me their grandmother calls black folks "nigger" out of ignorance, that doesn't change the offense or do I tell myself my uncles just don't know any better and let it go. When I'm with them -- this family -- and they say something left of center, I feel like my silence okays it, but I know that my speaking up won't do much to change what they think. Most times it's not worth it to me to cause an issue when nothing will change, but it still plays in my mind that I know better, but didn't say anything.

Maybe my sensitivity to this has more to do with feeling like I'm outgrowing them and not being ok with that, than any actual ignorance. I don't know. But I do know that I've got to figure this out. I can't keep avoiding the issue.


Have you ever done something with the best intentions, or maybe with no intentions, and it just got away from you and turned into something it was never supposed to be?

I remember one time in high school I tried to dead an issue between my then-BFF and another girl. I made a LOT of innocent mistakes, but a simple conversation between myself and the other girl somehow turned into the most devastating betrayal ever. The then-BFF called me a bitch, accused me of stabbing her in the back... she did everything but face punch me, which at the time I wished she would've done instead of laying the verbal smackdown on me that she did.

Being a teenager and having my hormones all out of whack, that simple misunderstanding sent me spiraling into a teenaged depression. I was on an emo kick for real. I was DEVASTATED that not only did someone I consider a dear friend think I had tried to hurt her but she thought I had tried to do that when I was really just trying to help her!

The more I tried to explain what had really gone down, the worse it got. I can't quite explain how this worked, but I know that the more people who approached me wondering what was happening, the more fudged the story got even though I explained it the same way to everyone. Eventually I figured out that it was easier to just let the story run it's course and hope that she and I would have a chance to clear the air.

We never talked about it again and I know that it was one of the MANY things that contributed to the ultimate end of our friendship -- if you want to call what we had a friendship.

I've had a few more similar instances, but I've learned something valuable through them all. At this point, I take a pretty immediate and hard line stance when things like this happen. I apologize to the effected parties, shut the hell up and have several seats. It isn't easy to do that when inside I'm thinking of how the fact that things reachied this point wasn't even my fault but I remind myself that regardless of what I meant, I ultimately played a part in things ending up as they did and so I need to own that and move on.

The thing about your words or actions getting away from you is that you can't get them back and if you spend too much time trying, you'll lose a lot of opportunities to dead an issue. Some folks are just absolutely impossible to appease and nothing you say will change that; in fact it will only give them more fodder for their anger. Say you're sorry, and lay low -- let it blow over. If anybody wants clarification, they'll find you and ask for it.


::Clears Throat::

I started this tumblr post because I was talking to a friend about how Diane Warren hasn't written a song I cared for since "Have You Ever" and it was supposed to just be a couple of thoughts... turned into several thoughts...

Check it out: ::Clears Throat::


Mr. Good Enough

Recently a dear friend sent me an email encouraging me to read a book called: Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. The premise is obvious. The author wants women to stop holding out for the man that meets all these random and ridiculous standards women sometimes have, and marry the guy with whom you can just be content. In the linked article discussing her book, the author says,
My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling “Bravo!” in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year. (It’s hard to maintain that level of zing when the conversation morphs into discussions about who’s changing the diapers or balancing the checkbook.)
I actually don't agree with this author's argument at all and even further think that this is some white people isht if I ever saw it. I mean what is this "content" bull? I can be content ALONE... if I'm going to put with someone else's isht, in all it's various forms and ways, then dammit we better have something amazing going on in our relationship that's gonna be long lasting, because I don't put up with stuff for free, for nothing, for fun... nah... not at all.

I encourage you to go read her whole article on this point, mostly because while I don't agree with some of the specific things she says, including the insinuation that we shouldn't be looking for fly ass relationships, just ones that don't suck, I do agree with the overall sentiment: it's women out here not getting chose because they have this VERY specific list of, make that facts... that must be true about any man they marry. And we've had this conversation in the blogosphere enough that we don't need to go there again except to reiterate that this manner of husband-seeking won't yield you much success.

What does work is recognizing that no one is perfect, including ourselves, and being willing to look over small issues/habits in order to see and have the bigger picture.

Another issue I take with this author's advice and suggestions is who it's directed to. Women ALWAYS get this lecture. This "stop waiting on Mr. Perfect, because he ain't out there" speech, but no one seems to be giving it to men. And then I see pairings like

Vincent Herbert and Tamar Braxton.

If I base my assessments off Tamar's reality show with her sisters, it seems like Vincent is a great guy. He's successful, devoted to his wife (who can be MORE than a handful at times)... a genuinely nice guy. But I can't help but ALWAYS think to myself that if Tamar looked like Vincent and Vincent like Tamar, Tamar wouldn't be married. In fact, we would say to ourselves and each other, "how dare Tamar act like that and be overweight..."

Weight is but one factor women are expected to accept in men but the expectation doesn't run both ways. From cockiness, to domestic abilities, men have some outlandish lists and women are out here working their behinds off to meet the requirements. On the flip side, men are more than happy to chuck the deuce and find some other chick who doesn't care that his hygiene ain't always at 100%, or that he could stand to see the inside of a gym, or see a stylist, or get a haircut, or... I could keep going.

We're always telling women to stop wanting so much, stop demanding so much, stop expecting so much and then tell them to be so much so that they can get chose. It's absolutely ridiculous and drives me crazy.

So no, I won't be reading this book about settling for Mr. Good Enough because I don't have a problem with the list of things that any man I get with needs to have/be/meet/know. There's nothing on that list that isn't true of myself. Like I told my friend, I don't need to pay money to be told that I need to let go of outrageous standards. I need someone to get out here and tell these men to get off the boo-boo (word to Pimp C.) and quit trippin.


Re-Defining Empowerment

Last night I saw a commercial advertising the presence of VH1's Basketball Wives at the Essence Festival this year -- Tami Roman, Shaunie O'Neal and Evelyn Lozada will all speak at an empowerment session.

You've gotta be ufckin kidding me.

Read more about my thoughts here.